To the Editors:
In his surprisingly sympathetic article on Gore Vidal’s latest book [“A Tract for the Times,” NYR, December 18, 2003] Edmund S. Morgan accepts or endorses many views which I find dubious. May I challenge him on two?
“FDR deliberately instigated the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor so that he could bring an unwilling people into the Second World War.” Has Professor Morgan any arguments or evidence to support this assertion?
Second: has he any comment to make on the fact that the section to which Gore Vidal so proudly belongs was that which, besides insisting on states’ rights, maintained and expanded slavery; broke up the Union because of an election result; began the Civil War by firing on Fort Sumter; conducted a war of terror on its black citizens after 1865 and maintained a rigid tyranny over the poor and the black for another century; and now provides the backbone for the party and the administration which (I entirely agree) are attacking the essential liberties of Americans and endangering the peace of the world?
Gore Vidal is free to be as embittered and inconsistent as any other old gentleman; but Edmund Morgan has a reputation as a historian to lose.
Department of History
University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, England
Edmund S. Morgan replies:
I was reporting Vidal’s views, not endorsing them, any more than I can endorse either his or Professor Brogan’s view of the South.
March 11, 2004